Former president Joyce Banda has withdrawn from presidential race for the May 21 2019 elections after her People’s Party  (PP) formed an electoral alliance with Malawi Congress Party (MCP)  to take on the ruling party, a joint statement said Thursday.
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The announcement comes after Nyasa Times earlier reported that PP national executive committee (NEC) members were meeting at the residence Banda to discuss a possible electoral combination with MCP to compete as one force in the coming elections.

At an imprompt joint news conference held at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe, PP secretary general Ibrahim Matola and his MCP counterpeart Eisenhower Mkaka, it was announced that Banda has pulled out of 2019 presidential race with her running mate Dr Jerry Jana.

“This is a decision that was taken by the People’s Party national executive committee,” said Matola, reading a brief statement.

Matola said Banda is also announcing her endorsement of the candidature of MCP presidential torch bearer Lazarous Chakwera.

“The People’s Party fully supports Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda’s decision,” said Matola.

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Matola said the decision has been reached “ after having Malawi’s greater common good.”

He said: “Malawi is bigger than individuals. As such we all have to set aside individual aspirations and emrace the greater and common good.”

Matola said the discussions between MCP and PP started as far back as 2015 while Banda was still in United States of America.

He said the details of the endorsement will be announced once Chakwera returns from overseas.

Nyasa Times understands Chakwera and Banda will hold a joint news conference on Saturday.

During the news conference MCP Secretary General Mkaka read the same statement in Chichewa.

Mkaka said he was happy with the development.

Banda has maintained that opposition parties should select a joint candidate in this year’s presidential election to unseat President Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and that she would be ready to “turn the page” and let a formidable candidate lead so she can spend the campaign period supporting candidates and propelling the presidential flagbearer.

Byond elections, Banda, who served as Malawi’s first female president from 2012 to 2014, would like to continue her lifetime mission of transformaing lives of rural communities.

With the MCP-PP alliance and combination of Freedom Party of former vice president Khumbi Kachali, it could pose the most credible challenge to President Mutharika, the flag bearer of the ruling DPP.

Banda ‘s PP can make a strong showing in the northern and eastern regions, while MCP has support in central region stronghold and now southern Lower Shire with its running mate Sidik Mia .

New party UTM of Chilima has never been politically tested despite having high profile personalities in his party.

Political commentators say political coalitions must be for Malawi’s, pointing out that votes on May 21 2019 are likely to be fragmented with no real majority winner.

Zomba-based Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) in a survey between August and September 2018 indicated DPP is poised to take 33 percent of the votes, followed by MCP with 31 percent and UTM Party with 28 percent and PP trailing a distant six percent.

It therefore makes sense that opposition parties aiming to unseat the current government opt for an alliance as PP would boost MCP numbers to cross the line. Former vice president Khumbo Kachali and his Freedom Party are already in support of MCP presidential ticket.

University of Malawi’s Chancellor College-based political commentator Ernest Thindwa has observed that opposition parties “stand better to benefit a lot from an electoral coalition.”

Social commentator Stanley Onjezani Kenani is on record to have posted on Facebook: “I think the former president, Mrs Joyce Banda, is the only voice of reason in a crowded opposition field. She says she is open to the idea of a coalition. She does not mind who leads it. The truth is, the murderous DPP can only be defeated if the opposition rallies behind one candidate. But egos the size of Kilimanjaro will, once again, hand victory to thieves.”

Malawi, one of the world’s poorest and most aid-dependent countries, will hold presidential, parliamentary and local council elections on May 21.